I have mentioned numerous times how much concern I have regarding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease because two of my close family members suffered from one or the other of them. To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about 2 percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the second most feared disease, behind only cancer. So, I am not alone in my concern. Although it is said a person with Alzheimer’s can live from two to 20 years, my understanding is that few make it beyond 7 years. Harvard Medical School has released a new study on it.
They point to age, gender and family history as factors outside our control regarding the disease. On a positive note, everything I support in this blog works to lower Alzheimer’s risk – exercise, watching your weight and eating right.
Harvard said, “While there are no surefire ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, by following the five steps below you may lower your risk for this disease — and enhance your overall health as well.
1. Maintain a healthy weight. Cut back on calories and increase physical activity if you need to shed some pounds.
2. Check your waistline. To accurately measure your waistline, use a tape measure around the narrowest portion of your waist (usually at the height of the navel and lowest rib). A National Institutes of Health panel recommends waist measurements of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
3. Eat mindfully. Emphasize colorful, vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes as protein sources; plus healthy fats. Cut down on unnecessary calories from sweets, sodas, refined grains like white bread or white rice, unhealthy fats, fried and fast foods, and mindless snacking. Keep a close eye on portion sizes, too.
4. Exercise regularly. This simple step does great things for your body. Regular physical activity helps control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, biking, rowing), can also help chip away total body fat and abdominal fat over time. Aim for 2 1/2 to 5 hours weekly of brisk walking (at 4 mph). Or try a vigorous exercise like jogging (at 6 mph) for half that time.
5. Keep an eye on important health numbers. In addition to watching your weight and waistline, ask your doctor whether your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar are within healthy ranges. Exercise, weight loss if needed, and medications (if necessary) can help keep these numbers on target.” For more on ways to prevent Alzheimer’s you can order A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease from Harvard.